CHAMPAIGN - When Whitman made the decision for fire John Groce no one foresaw this...Brad Underwood being introduced at Groce's replacement.
Not even Whitman thought it could happen because it was only a year ago that Underwood took the head coaching job at Oklahoma State.
"We found ourselves talking around him for a while because we just didn't think we had a chance to get him to be very frank about it," said Whitman at an introductory press conference for Underwood Monday.
But Whitman placed a phone call to Underwood last week and found out Underwood was very interested.
"For me it was no decision," said Underwood. "It was something that meant a great deal to me. I spent ten years in this state from 1993 to 2003 and at that time I learned how important the Illini nation was and how powerful and basketball was special here."
That tne year period was when Underwood was an assistant coach at Western Illinois. This season he guided Oklahoma State to 20 wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Before that he took Stephen F. Austin to two NCAA tournaments where his teams pulled off upsets over Virginia Commonwealth and West Virginia.
Underwood's teams play an aggressive style.
"We like to play fast. We were one of the top teams in the country in scoring in the first seven seconds," says Underwood.
"There's no question that Brad Underwood's teams have a strong identity," said Whitman. "It's built on toughness. It's built on intensity." "I love that he's a winner. He's a proven winner. You look at what his teams have done and it is nothing short of remarkable!"
"Losing is not an option and I want our players to believe that," said Underwood. "I dream big, and I dream bigger. And winning a national championship is something that can happen here, and I want to be a part of that. I want to help lead this program to that."
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